York University puts ‘trigger warnings’ on English language course material


York University puts ‘trigger warnings’ on English language course material and tells students they can leave remote classes if ‘sensitive content’ upsets them

  •  Warnings over ‘insults’ have appeared in the English language department
  •  Archaeology students  were warned of skeletons before a ‘mummification’ class
  •  Lecturers can let students leave class at any point despite them being online

The University of York has put trigger warnings on English Language courses available to students.

Warnings over ‘insults’ and swear words have appeared in the language and linguistic science department as ‘content warnings’ on syllabus courses.

Some of the guidance from the Russell group university alerts language students to ‘verbal abuse, spoken and written threats’ that could be in their course content.

Further trigger warnings for crime, death, ‘hateful language’, miscarriages, abortion and ‘transphobic language/behaviour’ appear before module webpages, videos, on course summaries, in specific lectures, and before showing ‘upsetting’, ‘distressing’, ‘difficult’ or ‘troubling’ materials during educational courses.

Professor Frank Furedi, an expert in sociology and ‘linguistic engineering’ at the University of Kent, said the trigger warnings are ‘part of a process of turning students into patients’. 

‘The assumption is that they need to be insulated with some sort of therapeutic intervention from dealing with anything that’s even remotely outside the norm,’ he told The Telegraph. 

Another warning read: ‘This module deals with language as it is used by real speakers and writers in real-world situations.

The University of York has issued extensive 'trigger warnings' on the content of English language courses for students choosing modules

The University of York has issued extensive ‘trigger warnings’ on the content of English language courses for students choosing modules

 ‘In many cases, the language forms we will encounter in the module are taboo terms (slurs, insults, swear words, slang terms, etc.) with the potential to cause offence.

‘On other occasions, it is the situation in which the language was produced, rather than the language itself, which is unpleasant or disturbing. Sometimes it is both simultaneously.”

 The top university also allows students to leave classes where they find any ‘sensitive content’ disturbing.

However ‘this year will be delivered almost exclusively online’,

Lecturers are told in The University of York’s guidance: ‘When giving a verbal content warning, leave a sufficient time gap between the warning and presenting the material. 

They are also reminded to: ‘Let students know that they can leave the session at any point if they need to.’ 

An exam paper from the language department says: ‘Caution: the paper contains material relating to the investigation and prosecution of a large number of murders and sexual crimes, and there is a possibility that you may find some of it disturbing.’  

Professor Frank Furedi explained: ‘Trigger warnings actually constitute a form of linguistic engineering, using trigger warnings as a way of re-engineering what your students should say or react to words.

‘It’s a way to manage and try to control people’s capacity to communicate, so it’s a very insidious process. Although it’s often well meant, it’s a form of linguistic quarantine.’ 

Archaeology students at the same institution were warned of dead bodies and skeletons before choosing a ‘mummification’ module.

The University of York did not respond when asked for comment. 

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